Why Didactics Matter
...or 'How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love The Teacher Notes'.
The history of the Premium site began way back in June, 1993. It was then that I started teaching ESL, over twenty years of experience of teaching in a wide array of very different teaching circumstances, everything from inattentive 5-year olds in Greece through pensioners wishing to chat about coffee cake recipes in the afternoons in Prague, to conscientious students sitting demanding exams in Italy.
And through it all, the didactics were important: what you were trying to achieve with each of these groups of students. It was never a case of killing time, getting to the end-of-lesson bell, ticking off another lesson and pocketing the lire, drachmas or crowns.
Are My Students Getting Better?
Sometimes, teaching is a featureless landscape. We often find ourselves in front of students for whom, "this year" is just "another year". They often struggle to see progress and we can sometimes guiltily feel the same way.
Didactics, a good sound ESL methodology, is what gives us, and our students, a bearing, a way of knowing which way is north. The landscape stops being featureless and gives everyone involved something to hold onto. At esl-lounge Premium, we have never believed in setting a "curriculum" because every teacher is teaching in a unique situation with unique students working towards unique goals. We do not set detailed teaching programs where this lesson plan must be done two weeks after that lesson plan.
What we do try to do, though, is to ensure that the materials you will find here are created within a sound didactic framework, that the student is always central to the process, but that the teaching - and the teacher - matters.
A Way Of Thinking About Teaching ESL
We had the good fortune, a few years ago, to get a comment from a teacher who worked with underprivileged non-native speakers in Oregon. We often get comments from our teachers, and we are always happy to receive them. This comment, from Jennifer, got us all thinking here about what we do and why we do it.
I think that's a better way of putting it than I could have myself. The Teacher Notes, found with every lesson plan on the Premium site, are not an instruction manual, a recipe that must not and cannot be deviated from. They are a support, as Jennifer wrote. There is a clear didactic message throughout, though. It's not a curriculum, a teaching program, but there is an ethos running through the Premium lessons.
For those of you who are not yet Premium members, have a look at our free sample lessons and I hope you can see from the Teacher Notes that the didactics do indeed matter to us, that a lesson plan on here is not just a case of surrounding some grammar worksheets with pretty pictures and calling it a "lesson plan".
It matters that we as teachers attempt to elicit language from students, that students are made responsible for parts of their own learning, that students are shown ways to both find and rectify error in their own language production, that students are exposed sometimes to language a little above their comprehension level. The lesson plans on the Premium site are not random exercises. It all means something, it all matters in the end.
So much of recent ESL theory in the last decade or two has been about moving the student to the center of the language learning process and certainly, this is no bad thing. But the teacher is still there, still a critical aspect of the process, one that deserves great attention and, indeed, "support". That is why, for us here at esl-lounge Premium, the didactics have always and will always matter.
Do contact us if you have anything you'd like to speak to us about.